Parliamentrivia: Our shared history as The United Methodist Church in the Northwest


By the Rev. Wes Stanton | Collage courtesy of #gnwac17, Wikipedia (see below), et.al.

There was a murmur around the room as the Procedural Motions were read Wednesday evening at the opening of #gnwac17. How odd! Usually, nobody is at all interested in the Procedural Motion that sets a session of Annual Conference in motion.

But hearing both motions together, we wondered: How can this be the 49th session of the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, but the 144th session of the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church?

The 49 is easy: 49 years back would have been 1968. Remember what happened in 1968? The Methodist Church and The Evangelical United Brethren merged! (But also – I think it was the same year – from the Methodist side, it was the merger of the Oregon Conference and the Idaho Conference.)

About 144 years back would have been 1873. What happened then? Was it the founding of the original Oregon Conference that encompassed Oregon, Washington & Idaho? It could be. By the time of Washington’s statehood in 1889, though, there was a Puget Sound Annual Conference (Wash., west of the mountains) and a Columbia River Conference (Wash., east of the mountains — and northern Idaho, I think).

And that’s not to mention the Swedish, German, and other Methodist Episcopal Conferences that overlaid the English-language conferences. And it’s not to mention Methodist Protestant Conferences, or Evangelical Association and United Brethren (merged into the Evangelical United Brethren in 1946).

The Puget Sound and Columbia River Annual Conferences merged in ~ 1928? to become the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference of The Methodist Episcopal Church.

Then in 1938, the denominational reunion of Methodist Episcopal, Methodist Episcopal – South, and Methodist Protestant, to become The Methodist Church.
Then in 1968, the merger with the Evangelical United Brethren, to become The United Methodist Church.

In any case, whatever was begun 144 years ago in 1873, it was NOT the first session of The Pacific Northwest Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. There was no United Methodist Church. There was no Pacific Northwest Conference. But we look to that year as a beginning.


The Rev. Wes Stanton serves as pastor of Tracyton United Methodist Church in the PNW Conference.
Images are public domain: image 1, 2, and 3

Comments (2)

  • Thanks, Wes, for this perspective on the history of Methodism in the greater northwest. It’s quite an amazing story.

  • First year of the Oregon Conference was 1852. About the time my first relative arrived. First session of the Columbia River Conference was 1874. I was too young to remember it well. First session of the Pacific Northwest Conference was 1939. There were at least a dozen other named conferences over the years. I have no idea how anyone decided how to establish our genesis. On the other hand, I would much rather we spend time thinking about building the church of tomorrow than how to age the church of yester year.

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